BLACK DRUM PLAN
In the past several years, the late spring and early summer run of black drum into the water of the mid-Chesapeake Bay has been a boon to recreational fishermen and an occasional benefit for commercial fishermen.
Maryland's Department of Natural Resources is in the process of formulating a management plan to ensure that the population of black drum in Maryland waters remains in its present good condition.
At a joint meeting of the Tidal Fish Advisory Committee and the Sport Fishing Advisory Committee in Annapolis Monday night, representatives of DNR's Tidewater Fisheries Administration proposed a one fish daily limit and a minimum length of 15 inches.
Black drum, a robust, bottom-feeding species with little commercial value, grow to weights greater than 100 pounds and may live longer than 50 years.
"The population is very healthy," said DNR's Harley Speirs. "We have about 40 year classes in the population. . . . This is a plan to keep away from potential problems in the future."
The recreational black drum season is short and intense, usually lasting from late May until early July, although this year there still are black drum being caught near the Stone Rock.
"What we are seeing is a change in the migration pattern of this fish, bypassing Cape Charles and moving on to us," said Capt. Ed O'Brien, a charter captain out of Chesapeake Beach and a member of the Sport Fishing Advisory Committee. "We don't catch very many of these fish, but what we do catch are precious."
Charter trips for black drum have helped fill the gaps when bluefish have been scarce the past few years and rockfish season has been closed.
The Sport Fishing Advisory Committee recommended Monday night that the commercial fishery for black drum be closed in Maryland and that the one-fish limit for recreational fishermen be instituted.
Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Waterman's Association and a member of the Tidal Fish Advisory Committee, suggested that a cap be placed on the commercial harvest and that other limitations be withheld until the fishery is studied further.
"It is just one more notch that you are taking away from a man's ability to earn a living," said Simns. "How much more can you take away?"
B6 DNR has agreed to further investigate the fishery.
THE FISHING REPORT
Inshore -- very good -- More large flounder are being caught in the back bays behind Ocean City and Assateague, including several from three to five pounds, but most are under the 14-inch minimum for keepers.
Offshore -- very good -- Catches of white marlin continue to be scattered from the Jackspot to the canyons. Tuna fishing has been variable, with yellowfin to 35 pounds and school bluefin taken while chunking off the Jackspot.
Lower bay -- excellent -- Capt. Butch Tawes of Crisfield said earlier this week that fishing for croaker, spot and sea trout is excellent in Tangier and Pocomoke sounds, especially from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. "It has been like someone just turns on a switch each evening," Tawes said. Across the bay at the Mouth of the Potomac, Capt. Doug Scheible said croaker and spot fishing there is excellent, too.
Middle bay -- good -- Bottom fishing has been turning up medium to large spot on bloodworms at the mouth of Eastern Bay, Hackett's Point, Hills Point and Cook Point in the Choptank and at the Choptank Fishing Pier. Croaker from 9 to 11 inches have been mixed lightly with the spot in many locations.
Upper bay -- good -- White perch and catfish dominate the action here. Catfish to 12 pounds have been taken at Hart and Miller Island, Pooles Island and in the Susquehanna, Still Pond and the Chester River. Crab baits best for catfish.
Upper tidal -- very good -- Best largemouth bass fishing is early or late in the day.
Patapsco -- good -- White perch good in the Key Bridge area and on edges of bottom humps with grass shrimp or crab baits best.
Susquehanna -- very good -- Smallmouth bass from 12 to 18 inches have been taken from deeper holes around Roberts and Spencer islands as well as bridge and dock pilings. Large catfish below the dam.
Choptank -- good -- Action at fishing pier at Cambridge for spot and some croaker.
Magothy -- good -- At the river mouth, good white perch fishing on the humps with grass shrimp. Also some catfish activity on crab baits.
Gunpowder -- good -- Pilings, grass beds and shoreline rip-rap should turn up decent largemouth bass, with grass beds the best bet at sunrise and sunset with topwater lures. Later in the day, switch to plastic worms fished in pockets of grass beds.
Chester -- good -- White perch can be had over hard or oyster bottom.
FRESHWATER LAKES AND RIVERS
Upper Potomac River -- excellent -- Fly fishermen have been getting some white miller action near dam No. 5. Best smallmouth fishing has been early or late in the day, when topwater lures work very well. For river condition, call (301) 223-6377.
Deep Creek Lake -- good -- Drifted live minnows have been
taking good sized pickerel. Trout are active in 25 to 30 feet of water near the dam, and big bluegill have been taken with nightcrawlers in 6 to 10 feet.
Patuxent River -- good -- Above Jugs Bay, some good bass fishing, but yellow perch and white perch fishing is even better.
Conowingo -- good -- Lake is warm and largemouth action has slowed. Still good smallmouth fishing around rock ledges and boulders.
Loch Raven -- very good -- White perch, crappie and bluegills have been banging nightcrawlers, maggots or wax worms fished on the deeper sides of the grass beds.
Liberty -- good -- Crappie hitting wax worms or maggots fished close to underwater structure. Largemouth bass holding in water deeper than 20 feet and taking artificial crayfish.
Triadelphia and Rocky Gorge -- good -- Fishing for big crappie has been good with live minnows fished deep near structure.
Piney Run -- good -- Best action has been on bluegill and yellow perch with nightcrawlers fished close to grass beds near shore.
Tonight: DNR open house to discuss Maryland's black bear population. Mt. Nebo Wildlife Management Area in Oakland, Garrett County, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.
Tomorrow-Sunday: Buck Fever! The Hunting Show, exhibition building, Howard County Fairgrounds, West Friendship. Show opens at 4 p.m. tomorrow, 9 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday. For more information, call (410) 922-5549.
Tomorrow-July 26: Ocean City Light Tackle Release Tournament, Marlin Club. For more information, call (410) 289-6363.
Saturday: Essex Middle River Chapter Maryland Saltwater Sportfishermen's Association Bluefish Tournament based out of Sandy Point State Park near Annapolis, 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Cash prizes for first, second and third heaviest bluefish. For entry forms and more information, call (410) 282-1262 or (410) 879-7643 .
Sunday: MCM hike in Cedarville State Forest near Waldorf in Southern Maryland. For more information, call (410) 964-0196.
Note: To have an item included in the Outdoors Journal, write Outdoors Editor, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert Street, Baltimore, Md. 21278-0001.